Middlesex 233 (Malan 78*, Stirling 52, Chappell 4-65) and 383 for 9 (Eskinazi 97, Cartwright 80, Harris 58*) beat Leicestershire 427 (Ackermann 196, Dexter 66, Murtagh 5-60) and 186 (Murtagh 3-27)
Middlesex's season has changed abruptly in the space of 48 hours. Home truths were told at Grace Road on Thursday night after they conceded a 194-run lead on first innings to Leicestershire. "Not good enough," said their coach Richard Scott. Words like "resolve" figured prominently. The badge, and the need for pride in it, probably got a mention. It normally does at a time of crisis.
The result was immediate; the three seaxes duly sharpened. Perhaps when Dawid Malan, an England batsman of steely repute, looks you in the eye it is best to listen. Middlesex conquered a target of 381 by one wicket with 6.3 overs remaining. This was gut-wrenching stuff and a tie would have been a suitable conclusion. As it is, Middlesex's promotion hopes are not quite spent and Leicestershire missed the chance to win three in a row for the first time since 1998.
The last time Middlesex were in Division Two, Angus Fraser, the former England stalwart, was appointed as director of cricket and began by suggesting that a side given to losing in two-and-a-half days might care to look at itself and lose in three-and-a-half instead. The eventual result was promotion and a Championship win in 2016. Relegated to everyone's surprise last September, there is no wish to return to the bad habits of old.
James Harris, dropped twice as the requirement fell below 50, clipped the winning boundary forcefully off Mohammad Abbas. It was an emphatic end to an intense day's cricket, during which Hilton Cartwright hit 80 after being "bowled" by Gavin Griffiths before he had scored - the ball clipped off-stump hard, but the bail obstinately stayed put - and Stevie Eskinazi made 97 and was then run out in a mix-up in which time seemed to expand.
Middlesex were obdurate from the outset. They started the day on 82 for 3, with 299 still needed, and the nightwatchman Ravi Patel resisted diligently for the first hour until Abbas tempted him into an off-side wipe. By then, expectations of uneven bounce prevalent earlier in the match had lessened. But all day they met anything on the stumps with utmost seriousness.
Paul Stirling soon fell, pushing at a wide ball from Gavin Griffiths, but when Cartwright, fresh to the crease, had his off stump clipped on nought, only to survive, there was an inkling that this might just be Middlesex's day. By tea, Cartwright, an Australian allrounder, had his first half-century since signing for Middlesex, and Grace Road, the quietest crowd in the country, briefly resounded to cries of "Keep your heads up, lads." They did, but it's always a bad sign.
Eskinazi was responsibility personified until, on 97, he observed Cartwright drive the left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson to Ben Raine at short extra cover. Raine could not retrieve a low chance and, as the ball bounced away, confusion took hold.
There is an App to help people with indecision apparently and there was time to download it as both batsmen embarked upon a single that neither really fancied. "No. Never on a misfield." "Still, it's quite a misfield. Maybe we could… in theory." "You seem to want this more than I do? Can we reach out to each other? Is it too late to reconsider?" "Hmm, seems like we're going. Is this wise?" "We've really messed up, haven't we. I don't believe it." As indicated, Raine recovered to throw down the stumps before Eskinazi could get home.
John Simpson went soon after tea, leg before to late inswing from Griffiths, but another substantial partnership was lodged. Harris' two escapes against Raine, an allrounder with a heart of oak, were costly, firstly on 21 when the keeper Lewis Hill couldn't gather a low catch, again on 23 when the ball escaped Ateeq Javid at second slip, low, wide, tough but takeable.
Raine's persistence was admirable. His unflagging effort was finally rewarded with treacherous bounce that had Cartwright lbw for 80 with 38 still needed. Middlesex were still seven short when Steve Finn was strangled down the leg-side - although to be fair it was a deliberate set-up, with leg slip and long leg on patrol. Last man Tim Murtagh joined Harris to steer the visitors over the line.
Finally, consider Leicestershire, their hopes of their first three-in-a-row since their Championship-winning season of 1998 lost. Ask many an opposition batsman and the soundtrack of that Championship-winning season was Paul Nixon yapping away behind the stumps.
Now Nixon has reappeared as coach, the wins are coming again and the desire to learn was summed up by one young professional stopping Malan for a technical chat as he headed to his car. Meanwhile, Division One counties are swarming around Nixon's most high-profile players. The least he deserves if he has to rebuild again is that English cricket recognises - without riders, and beginning with the top, and Andrew Strauss - his county's contribution to English cricket.